Baron Guy de Rothschild, the patriarch of the French branch of the famed Rothschild banking empire, was a secular Jew but well understood the needs of the Jewish community. Rothschild died June 14 in Paris at 98. The cause of death was not given.
He founded the UJF, a federation of some 200 social, educational and cultural associations, in 1950 and guided it until 1982.
"The baron played a major leadership role in the French Jewish community even though he did not have any official role in the past 30 years," said David Saada, the fund's general director.
Saada noted that Baron Rothschild valued a role for religion in the field of education, especially among Sephardim.
"He signed a very important accord with the Jewish Agency in the 1970s that reoriented and boosted Jewish education in France," Saada said. " He was not at all religious, but his force was that he understood the needs of the community in that area."
The UJF helped to restructure the community after the deportation of 75,000 French Jews by the collaborationist French government during World War II. The fund also played a major role integrating the Sephardim who came from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria in the 1950s and 1960s, and now account for at least 70 percent of the approximately 700,000 Jews in France.
During the Nazi occupation the French government seized the Rothschilds' financial empire because the family was Jewish. Rothschild fled to the United States and then London, where he joined the resistance led by Gen. Charles de Gaulle.
Rothschild rebuilt the empire following World War II and guided de Rothschild Freres bank from 1967 to 1979. In 1981, the bank was again taken away, this time nationalized by the French government under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand.
A few years later, his son David once more began to piece together the family-banking network, which in 1987 became the Rothschild and Company Bank.
In his later years, Baron Rothschild's main interest was horse racing.
Rothschild is survived by his sons, David and Edouard. A funeral service was planned for June 21 in Paris' main synagogue.
-- Brett Kline, Jewish Telgraphic Agency
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